By: Joseph Jazz Hayden
Friday, July 13, 2012
Dear Friends, Allies and Supporters,
As you may already know, I have a pending case in Manhattan Criminal Court resulting from a bogus stop & frisk by the NYPD from December, 2011. I can unequivocally state that this stop and arrest was in retaliation for my work as a Citizen Reporter aggressively covering police/community relationships in the Harlem community. (To review my body of work you need only go to my web site, www.allthingsharlem.com/copwatch to view four years of coverage of police community relations in Harlem.)
My work on this issue is well known and has been covered by many news organizations, including The New York Times, the Village Voice, the Amsterdam News, the Economist, NY1, Channel 7 Eyewitness News, WPIX Channel 11, Gothamist, The Brooklyn Rail, The Nation and the National in Abu Dhabi (Middle East). The Harlem community is well aware of my work, and encourages and supports it.
As you are probably already aware, the racist practice of stop & frisk by the NYPD has gained national attention for its astronomical numbers of unwarranted stops, nearly 700,000 in 2011. Less than 6% of those stopped were charged with any crime or violation of the law. The disproportionate impact on communities of color, specifically Blacks and Latinos (87%), has led to city-wide protest and condemnation in the local and national media.
For every action there is a reaction. Because of my coverage of this racist and ineffective practice, I have been targeted for retaliation. My right as a citizen to cover the police in public places, as they perform their duties (a right recently acknowledged by U.S. Attorney General Holder) has resulted in my being targeted by the 32nd precinct in Harlem.
I am currently facing felony charges – and potentially years in prison – as a result of an unlawful stop and search of my car last December. In July of 2011, I filmed the same officers who later arrested me performing an unlawful car stop in Harlem. You can view that video here: http://bit.ly/NjOZTN
During the video you can hear the officers talking to me and saying that they know who I am and know my background. At minute 5:05 the officer can be heard saying, “You done selling drugs yet or what? I know your rap sheet.” Then again around 5:55 the officer can be heard saying, “Go sell some more drugs sir. We know your background, I know who you are.” The officers let the men in the car go without charges. But they had other plans for me.
In December of 2011, the very same officers stopped my car and conducted an illegal search. They found a pocket knife and a mini replica baseball bat in the car, and charged me with two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a felony punishable with two to seven years on prison. My stop and arrest was unequivocal retaliation for my surveillance of these officers and work in the community.
Today I need your help. Please contact Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and demand that all charges against Joseph Hayden be dropped and that the NYPD be put on notice that citizens have a right to monitor their “servants” as they perform their duties without retaliation. The significance of these cases of retaliation for covering “our servants” extends beyond my case alone. These actions by NYPD raise the larger issue of their role in communities of color, the rights of citizens to monitor law enforcement, and the rights/role of new media in covering the news. What is happening to me has happened to hundreds of thousands of citizens in New York City. Enough is enough!
Send your letter to:
Manhattan District Attorney
One Hogan Place
New York, NY 10013
A sample letter is included below.
If you can make it, please join me at my next court appearance on July 31 in Part F at 100 Centre Street in Manhattan. We will be gathering outside the courthouse at 8:30 am.
Thanks for your support.
Joseph Jazz Hayden
Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
SAMPLE LETTER TO CYRUS VANCE
Cyrus Vance Manhattan District Attorney
One Hogan Place
New York, NY 10013
Dear District Attorney Vance,
[PLEASE MAKE INCLUDE YOUR NAME, YOUR JOB OR OTHER IMPORTANT AFFILIATION AND HOW YOU KNOW JAZZ]
I am writing today about an urgent matter, the case of Joseph Hayden. Your office has chosen to seek an indictment against him for two counts of Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree. I believe that his arrest was a retaliatory act on the part of the police against one of their most outspoken critics, a long-time neighborhood cop watch activist and police reform advocate.
Mr. Hayden is a longtime member of The Riverside Church Prison Ministry and a founding member of the Ministry’s Campaign to End The New Jim Crow, a group dedicated to combatting mass incarceration. And for the past four years, Mr. Hayden has videotaped police officers as they stop and frisk people in Harlem as part of a neighborhood copwatch program and posted these videos on his website, All Things Harlem.
Mr. Hayden was pulled over for a traffic stop in Harlem in December 2011. When the police approached his car, they made it plain that they recognized Mr. Hayden by statements such as “We know you.” The two officers who stopped him in December were the same officers filmed by Mr. Hayden several months earlier (view the video here: http://bit.ly/NjOZTN). After clearly acknowledging that they knew who he was, the officers unlawfully searched his car, finding a penknife and a small commemorative replica baseball bat. These items are the weapons for which he is now facing felony charges punishable by 2 to 7 years in prison.
Thank you for your kind attention to this letter.